History of The Church: St Jerome, Mapusa.
Mapusa was a small sleepy town in Bardez that grew from a settlement by the river known as Gaunsavaddo and Angodd but which is now set around an ‘Altinho’ (small mount). Mapusa lies about 13 kilometres from the capital Panjim, and is one of the oldest towns of Goa
It has been the capital of the old province of Bardez and is the third largest city of Goa. “The Crown of Bardez” as it is also known, consists basically of a market place which forms the hub of North Goa. It is today an important transit point for those visiting North Goa and a place for shopping.
Mapusa has a history of its own. It is said that long before the Portuguese and other settlers and rulers invaded Goa, the town was an agrarian community with a well-established ganvkari (community farming) system. In the community farming system, the villagers formed associations, worked on community land and shared their produce in a pre- determined measure every three years.
In Konkani people call the town Mhahapaxem or Mhapxem – Mhaha or Maha means motto or big and apaxem/apxem means ganv or place – a big place or centre for buying and selling village products.
The Church of St Jerome -Mapusa
The Church of Mapusa was founded in the year 1594 by Frei Jeronimo do Espirito Santo, the Franciscan. It is dedicated to St Jerome (São Jeronimo) the fourth century Priest, Theologian and Historian from ancient Greece. In the Roman Catholic Church, Jerome (347 -420 C.E.) is recognised as the Patron Saint of Translators, Librarians and Encyclopaedists.
The Church of St Jerome was built in 1594– following the conversions and colonial religious intolerance of those times with contributions made by the then Communidade of Mapusa, Khorlim and Cunchelim and partly from donations collected by Frei Jeronimo do Espirito Santo. As the number of parishioners steadily increased, the Church was rebuilt in the year 1674. A residence with one storey and a compartment to house the safe was built in 1719.
On April 27 th in the year 1838, the Vespers of the Feast of Our Lady of Miracles, the Church was partly destroyed in an accidental fire caused by a candle carelessly left alight after Vespers. Due to this accidental fire all the Masses on the feast day were celebrated in Chapel of the cemetery which had been built the previous year. However, the Church was soon restored to its former glory. On March 1839, the repair works of the Church were completed with the financial help of the Ganvkars of the three Communidades of Mapusa, Khorlim and Cunchelim. On this occasion, the decorated panel of the three altars, the pulpit and the big bell were purchased in a public auction.
During the tenure of the Parish Priest Fr Niceforo Godinho some renovation work was done to the Church. In December 1961, during the liberation of Goa and more specifically “Operation Vijay”, almost the entire roof of the Church was damaged. Part of the Church roof was razed by a fire which was sparked off when the retreating Portuguese army tried to blow up the nearby Tar Bridge to stall the advancing Indian Army. Once again it was repaired, not only with the contribution from the Catholic Community but also from the Hindu Community, under the supervision of the Parish Priest, Fr Antonio das Merces e Melo.
During the tenure of Fr Roque Barretto, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel was built as also the stage structure in the Church compound where all the ceremonies are conducted during certain occasions and when the Church cannot accommodate a large crowd of faithful. The renovation work of the residence for Priests and Church Offices as well as the hall for meetings was done during the tenure of Fr Amandio Valadares.
The Mapusa Church as it stands today bears an exquisite Baroque style (art). It has three storeys with coupled plasters with three doors and an equal number of windows with round balustrade balconies.
The outside rear of the Church has a unique dome with the bell tower. The ceiling is intricately patterned with strips of wood. The Church however is more famous for its annual Milagr Saibinnichem Fest than for its architectural splendour.
The Church has three altars: the main altar in the sanctuary and two side altars. The main altar dedicated to Our Lady of Miracles is richly carved. The main altar has the statue of Our Lady of Miracles in the centre and the statue of Sacred Heart of Mary and of Sacred Heart of Jesus to its right and left respectively.
The side altar to the right has a big statue of the Patron Saint, St Jerome in the centre and the smaller statue of St. Sebastian to the right and that of St Joseph on the left. The left side altar has the statue of St. John the Baptist in the centre, the smaller statues of St. Paul on the right and that of St. Peter on the left. On the left side there is a big Crucifix.
As found in almost all Goan Churches, there is a huge pulpit with the same décor as that of the altars. It is now obsolete as Priests no more preach from pulpits. Beneath the choir opposite the Baptismal Font there is yet another altar under the invocation of the Holy Family.
In the yard of the Church there is a statue of Christ the King erected on the occasion of the celebration of the feast of St. Jerome on September 30, 1920 . There is also a Grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes built with a forecourt. The big Cross in front of the Church was built in 1934.
Right at the back of the Church a bust of Ven. Agnelo De Souza stands on a pedestal.